Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Seeking Opportunities Group Strives to Improve Saw Mill Run, Encourage Investment

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Seeking Opportunities Group Strives to Improve Saw Mill Run, Encourage Investment

Article excerpt

Saw Mill Run has a poor reputation among people living in its South Hills watershed, but like any stream, it has natural potential to be an asset.

With a new citizen science project, Economic Development South hopes to foster that idea. It will be recruiting volunteer stewards from the 12 municipalities in the watershed starting this summer.

Using a smartphone application developed at the Steel City Code Fest in February, volunteers will regularly assess stream conditions, photograph and describe them, and upload their findings for Lisa Brown to begin collating.

Ms. Brown is the coordinator of the development group's Saw Mill Run Watershed Association, a project the nonprofit initiated last year to link the health of the stream to other improvements being considered for Route 51.

It has a $6,000 grant from Pennsylvania American Water to get started with outreach and marketing, said Ms. Brown, a former director of operations and outreach for the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association in the East End and eastern suburbs.

She plans to hold community events to introduce residents to the issues, and to the app, in mid- to late summer.

"I was surprised at how much of Saw Mill Run is open air," she said. "When I walk along the stream, it is surprisingly beautiful. I would like people to get out and see it."

The stream has 19 square miles of watershed and has been a source of flooding and stormwater sewage backups for decades.

"Nobody has fond memories of catching a fish or swimming in it," said Greg Jones, executive director of the development group.

Its reputation is linked with its location along blighted Route 51. Many properties on that stretch lie in the flood plain way and can't be insured or sold. Mr. Jones said it is a situation of "being stuck."

One solution is to let parts of the boulevard go back to nature, using a healthier Saw Mill Run as a source. Islands of retail not in the flooding area can be enhanced with safer pedestrian features, including better access to bus stops and bus shelters.

"My dream is to take Saw Mill Run as an environmental issue that has relevance to development of that corridor," Mr. …

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